Coronavirus: What You Should Know

If you’ve been paying attention to the news lately then you’ve likely heard about the new strain of the coronavirus, which has infected over 200 individuals (killing 4) since the outbreak initially began in China this past December. Typically, coronaviruses are considered fairly common and consist of a large family of viruses ranging from everything to the common cold to more serious upper-respiratory-related diseases — including mild to moderate symptoms such as runny nose, headache, cough, sore throat, as well as fever — and those symptoms will generally go away on their own if a patient gets adequate treatment (id necessary), coupled with rest, and do not have any underlying medical conditions or an already compromised immune system. This particular new strain of coronavirus, however, shares stark similarities to SARS (also known as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome.) As you might recall, the SARS virus made global headlines in 2002–2003 after sickening over 8,000 individuals worldwide and killing nearly 800 (including 44 Canadians) — and while there isn’t much yet known about this newest strain of virus and what’s causing it, there are some facts that health scientists have narrowed down: That it causes pneumonia, that it doesn’t respond to antibiotic treatment, and that it is confirmed to spread via human transmission (as well as animal to human transmission.)

Based on the information currently available about this virus, the World Health Organization is not yet recommending travel restrictions. While there are also no confirmed cases of the virus in Canada, health officials in Ontario recently investigated three possible cases which were quickly ruled out. Province-wide measures are also being taken in hospitals to alert healthcare workers of what signs and symptoms to watch for in patients, as well as preparing new measures for infection-control, such as signage in emergency rooms, isolation areas, as well as how to safely collect samples from patients who may be infected with the virus. In addition to these measures, airports across Canada (including Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal) have placed signage asking travellers arriving from Wuhan to immediately advise border agents if they are experiencing any flu-like symptoms; while in the United States, both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have also implemented enhanced health screenings at airports in various cities, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York in effort to detect potentially ill travellers on direct/connecting flights.

As for what you can do to prevent yourself from developing or spreading infection, the same rules apply to this virus as all other coronaviruses, including practicing good hygiene — such as washing your hands regularly with warm soap and water, covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing, and avoiding any close contact with someone exhibiting signs of a respiratory illness — while you should also make sure certain foods, such as meat and eggs, are cooked thoroughly. It is also possible for household animals, such as cats and dogs, to contract this virus — and while the feline coronavirus is usually asymptomatic, it may cause specific symptoms like mild diarrhea to more severe symptoms such as organ failure.

Given how fast-developing and concerning this latest outbreak of coronavirus is, as well as the fact that it has now begun spreading to healthcare workers, the World Health Organization has since announced that they have put together a panel which will convene this week to discuss whether or not it should be declared as a global health emergency. You can find all of their latest updates by visiting their website at For more general information on the coronavirus, click here.

Originally published at on January 21, 2020.



Dr. Ali Ghahary is a Family Physician in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

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